By Lynn Marie Cherry
Author, Keep Walking: 40 Days to Hope and Freedom after Betrayal
Reflections on the 2017 Restoring Hearts Women’s Conference
My husband’s addiction to pornography seeped slowly into my awareness like ground water from an acrid pool. When it did, I did the only thing I knew to do. I pretended. I dragged a mountain of denial over the top of that rancid water and told myself, ‘I love the mountains! I’ve always wanted a mountain view. Isn’t this a beautiful mountain?’
I stacked the pain of denial on top of the pain of betrayal. And I coped that way for eight years – give or take a day or two – years of numbing, existing and dragging my brokenness behind me like a club foot. I was the walking dead before zombies were cool.
It was at a women’s conference that the Holy Spirit first got my attention back in 2004. Before every session there was a skit with four princesses. I know, I can hear you groaning. Bear with me. The first time something stressful happened, one of the princesses collapsed, fell to the floor and slept through the rest of the scene. Allow me to introduce Sleeping Beauty. She did this in every skit. It was hilarious. Sleeping Beauty was narcoleptic. Everybody laughed and I joined in, up until the last skit of the day. When she collapsed, fell to the floor and slept through the rest of the scene, I didn’t see Sleeping Beauty on that stage. I saw me, hiding under the covers of depression, wearing a shawl of shame and crawling into bed with denial too often for too long. I knew it was time to wake up to the reality of my life.
A friend invited me to coffee shortly after that conference. As we sat under the green umbrella, she told me about a betrayal in her marriage. Her husband had developed an emotional attachment with a co-worker. We cried together over the suffering we both endured. And yet the more we talked, the more I realized she was on the other side of the pain I was drowning in. She had found a therapist that specialized in betrayal trauma recovery. She gave me the number and I went home that day buoyed by the hope of her story. I believed if there was an other side for her, there was an other side for me. I scheduled an appointment.
April 29, 2017 I attended the Restoring Hearts Women’s Conference. One of the things I loved about the gathering is the solidarity of suffering. It was the same feeling I felt when I walked into my first support group. I love that feeling so much because I don’t know how many times I walked into a room full of people and told myself, ‘I am the only one here with broken dreams and a shattered heart. I am the only one who is dying inside.’ Maybe you know how it feels to be alone in a crowd.
In my support group, I was no longer alone. When I listened to the other women in my group share their emotions and needs, I realized I felt that way too. My denial mountain melted away in the warmth and acceptance of our weekly sessions.
I had a small circle of friends who walked beside me in recovery. Lexie watched my boys while I went to group. Anita climbed into my pit of despair and it seemed a little less overwhelming in there with her beside me. Kelly refused to let me go back to my familiar coping mechanism, even when I was convinced that pretending was preferable to doing the hard work of recovery.
I don’t know how I would have made it without the women who walked with me. They gave me the courage to take a step forward when I had no courage of my own. They offered a shoulder to lean on when my legs were wobbly and my knees were weak. They helped me put one foot in front of the other and just keep walking.
The Restoring Hearts Conference was full of great teaching, empowering truth and practical tools, but more than that it was a moment for women to gather together and connect without needing to explain a single tear. Wasn’t that a sweet relief? It was an opportunity to join a community where women can lean on and learn from each other, where we discover there is a way through the pain of betrayal and leave with the courage to take that next brave step.
If you find yourself in a similar journey following the discovery of your husband’s or boyfriend’s betrayal, we encourage you to reach out to a therapist and consider visiting one of Prodigals Partners in Process support groups to gain support from a community of women who understand your pain, and where you ‘don’t need to explain a single tear.’
Restoring Hearts Women’s Conference is held each year in April. Please subscribe to our free blog for future conference updates and regular encouragement.
A sponsor of the 2017 Restoring Hearts Women’s Conference, Lynn Marie Cherry is an engaging speaker and the author of Keep Walking: 40 Days to Hope and Freedom after Betrayal a daily devotional for women going through betrayal. She is dedicated to inspiring hope and shining a light on the path to freedom. Lynn is a graduate of Oral Roberts University and a licensed minister. She enjoys sharing insight from God’s word and the world around her. You’ll find her at lynnmariecherry.com.